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Friday, October 21, 2011

Reflections on the Brewers Postseason

Yes, the Brewers season ended about as disappointingly as possible, limping through the NLCS and losing to the division rival St. Louis Cardinals in six games. Even worse, the games they lost, aside from Gallardo's start against Carpenter, weren't even close, with a run differential of 10-31. The Cardinals all but destroyed the Brewers' pitching and the Crew's hitters somehow never cracked Tony La Russa's bullpen.

There's plenty of ammunition to criticize Ron Roenicke, as there always is when a team fails to meet expectations (just ask Red Sox fans). Mark Kotsay did a great job of making him look like an idiot for starting him in center field in game 3, Kotsay'ing the Brewers in epic fashion not once but twice in the first inning and ultimately costing them the game (his HR notwithstanding). Aside from the game winning hit in NLDS game five, Nyjer Morgan basically did nothing with the bat all postseason, leading Roenicke to start Kotsay. Carlos Gomez, always the best defensive option in center field, likely was also the best option at the plate. He should have seen more playing time and should have started in Kotsay's stead.

Many have criticized Roenicke's bullpen management. There's much that can be said about the Brewers pitchers, but if nothing else, Roenicke should have leaned more heavily on bullpen arms such as Axford, K-Rod, and Hawkins, over the likes of Estrada and Narveson. Kameron Loe only pitched 2.1 innings in the NLCS (though it felt more like 20.1) but even that may have been 2.1 too many, considering how many runs he gave up, even if some of them can be blamed on defensive lapses.

In retrospect (and maybe in advance) it's easy to say that Marcum never should have started game 6, but starting Narveson or Estrada would have reduced the entire pitching staff by one, since no one (myself included) seems to think Marcum would ever be viable coming out of the bullpen. Yes, he pitched horrendously, but for all the success he had this season there was reason to believe there was at least a chance he could bounce back for game 6, much like Randy Wolf did in game 4. Roenicke did the right thing by starting Marcum and pulling him quickly when it was obvious he didn't have it.

The Crew's bats share responsibility for losing the NLCS, as many of the hitters underperformed badly, with exceptions of Ryan Braun, Jerry Hairston, Jr., Jonathan Lucroy, and Yuni "The Second 'T' is Now Somehow Silent" Betancourt. For as strong as the offense was all season, they should have been able to score more runs. Had they done so they would at least have stood a fighting chance against the Cards.

All negatives aside there are also some positives to remember. On a personal level, I attended games 1 of both the NLDS and NLCS, viewing two Brewers postseason victories in person in the electric atmosphere of Miller Park. Despite the overall outcome thousands of Brewer fans can say the same.

Ryan Braun proved once again that he thrives on the biggest of stages, setting a major league record by reaching base in the first inning nine games in a row. Yovani Gallardo emerged as the team's true ace, pitching brilliantly in the NLDS and battling through game three on a day he obviously didn't have his best stuff.

The Brewers came within two wins of only their second World Series appearance ever. They won their first postseason series in almost thirty years and capped the NLDS with one of the most exciting win in franchise history. They fell short of the ultimate goal, but took us along one helluva ride and created some incredible lasting memories in the process.

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